Out of Home: Advertising’s most exciting media sector
London - Tuesday 6th June 2023

Out of Home advertising is perfectly positioned as the world’s advertising market develops rapidly into its digital future. 

Several factors put Out of Home, and the companies that build, develop, and maintain its infrastructure and advertising inventory, in an exceptional situation to secure a growing share of spend from companies across the advertising landscape. 

Many say Out of Home advertising is reaching a golden age, ready to answer the needs of businesses, large and small. It provides a proven highly effective advertising solution that is trusted, sustainable and inclusive, with a vital and exclusive social contribution at its core.

Let’s take a closer look at why this golden age is becoming a reality and the reasons that being part of the world’s Out of Home advertising sector right now is the smartest move in the battle for advertising spend.

Out of Home Advertising’s Unique Contribution

Firstly, Out of Home advertising is matchless among its fellow advertising channels. It helps to fund the urban environment, making hugely valuable financial contributions to updating street furniture and public transport infrastructure in towns and cities around the world. Its social role differs from other advertising channels and the growing recognition for this tangible, practical value is highly attractive to advertisers, particularly larger companies, that are looking to demonstrate delivery on their own corporate responsibilities to stakeholders.

In short, spend in the Out of Home sector is an investment in the places and homes where millions of people live, work and play.

"Out of Home advertising is reaching a golden age
D48 in Liversedge operated by Clear Channel UK 
Out of Home’s Strong Forecasts for Growth 

Everywhere that Out of Home ad spend is reported, it is accompanied by details of growth to levels higher than pre-Covid times, and with an increasing share attributed to digital formats. 

Statista projects US ad spend in Out of Home will reach $39.05bn in 2023, taking it back above the pre-Covid annual level, and with growth forecast to $44.13bn by 2027. A growing share of this spend will be for digital Out of Home advertising. 

A similar steady growth for the next three years in the US market is projected by global media group, dentsu. 

Source: Advertising Association/Warc Expenditure Report 2023. 

That rude return to growth in ad spend for Out of Home can be seen in all geographical markets. For example, total OOH revenue in the UK reached £1.2bn in 2022 with growth of +31% year-on-year and more growth forecast this year to £1.275bn in the quarterly and annual tracking of UK ad spend by the Advertising Association and the World Advertising Research Centre (WARC). Q4 2022 contributed £346 million towards annual OOH revenues, up +3.2% compared to Q4 2021. 

Digital Out-of-Home experienced another year of significant growth, accounting for 63% of total OOH, an increase of +30% year-on-year. 

+31% year on year growth in UK 

Looking into Europe, a similar pattern emerges. For example, continued growth is expected in Spain, with PwC recording Out of Home spend of 4.5ME in 2022 including a gradual transition from classic to digital sites. José Luis Durán, Founder and CEO at Impact OOH (formerly CEO at Grupo Redext), explains that “the digitisation of the sector is driving growth, as brands look for new ways to reach their target audience.” 

Meanwhile, GroupM, one of the world’s largest advertising buying companies, part of global agency group, WPP, has announced that Out of Home ad spend will surpass 2019 levels globally by 2024, led by strong recoveries in the US, Brazil, Australia, and France. Excluding China, growth was forecast to reach 18.1% in 2022. The relaxation of lockdowns in China, announced after GroupM’s publication of its figures, will only serve to further boost this growth. 

Dallas Wiles, co-CEO of JCDecaux UK, recently told The Media Leader why he believes 2023 will be “the year of the public screen”. He explained, “this year we have seen the continued rise in programmatic OOH, with powerful opportunities for clients to maintain their brand and drive sales using the new digitised capabilities of the medium. We know that 83% of people visit a top 60 city every month and with OOH investment in digital screens in major cities, the public screen is able to drive real value for our advertising partners across the UK.” 

This growth factor is a major USP for the Out of Home sector versus many other media channels.

Out of Home’s Digital Revolution 

As Wiles highlights, digital technology is transforming advertising, making a significant, lasting impact on every advertising channel. This impact was accelerated by the pandemic lockdowns of 2020 and 2021, where people, denied access to the high streets, turned online to shop. 

The UK’s Advertising Association recorded the impact in a special report titled: UK Advertising’s AdSpend Review: The Pandemic Effect, where it explained how the market grew £8bn more than previously expected during the two-year period, driven by a rapid shift in business spend into online advertising. The result was a faster-than-expected move to digital across all channels to the point where 75 pence in every pound is now spent on some form of digital advertising. Then President of the Advertising Association and former Unilever CCMO, Keith Weed, attributed the shift to how lockdowns forced people to absorb 15 years of online know-how in a matter of just 15 days. 

This rapid move to digital brings all kinds of growing pains and some advertising channels are better suited to cope than others.

Out of Home boasts a wealth of digital riches, many of which are still being unlocked. A growing number of digital screens can bring the ‘wow’ factor to the way a company’s advertising can look on a billboard, while also enabling a much more rapid and immediate delivery system.

Thanks to digital, the requirement of a poster staying in place for two weeks is lifted and different time slots during the day and night are opened up to advertisers, depending on who they want to reach and, critically, when. Advertising creative can be updated, messages can be delivered in an even more targeted way, and people can interact with those screens. These screens are popping up in towns and cities all over the world as the sector invests in converting sites to digital screens, all in response to the demand from advertisers for more digital advertising opportunities. There is growth in demand for digital everywhere from advertisers as businesses adapt to online commerce.

Wildstone is excited to be a part of Out of Home’s digital revolution, helping outdoor media’s infrastructure to meet this rising demand.

"There is growth in demand for digital everywhere
An Expanding Network Of Connected Screens and Sites

One of the most exciting innovations is led by the UK’s Out of Home advertising industry trade body, Outsmart.

It has announced Playout - a centralised system for tracking and verifying all Out of Home (OOH) advertising. For context, Digital OOH now makes up 64% of the entire UK OOH sector revenue and runs on 27,000 digital screens.

This incredibly exciting innovation is being backed by Outsmart’s members, including the likes of Clear Channel, Global, JCDecaux, Ocean Outdoor, and supported by specialist media-buying agencies such as Kinetic (part of WPP), Posterscope (dentsu), Rapport (IPG) and Talon Outdoor. 

From Summer 2023 onwards, Playout will contain information about all ads that have been played on sites owned by many outdoor media companies, with a combined digital inventory comprising around 70% of the entire UK market. It should enable advertisers to report a single ad campaign, even if it has run on different media owners’ sites.

Digital OOH now makes up +64% of the entire UK sector

Justin Gibbons, partner at Work Research, has described Playout as a move that will keep the outdoor “in the game for next 50 years”. The technology will make it more attractive for advertisers who want near-instant feedback on digital ad delivery, just as they have had for years with online display and search.

Tim Lumb who leads Outsmart, says: “Playout is the latest in a series of collaborative innovations in Out of Home, beginning with SPACE - a central database of OOH inventory - back in 2016, followed by the establishment of standardised playout reporting templates in 2018, OpenDirect (OOH) in 2021 and OpenRTB in 2022.”

Co-Founder of iQ, David Peters, says: “Technology has helped drive OOH on many fronts. The quality of screens we are seeing erected has increased immeasurably over the last few years and are now far more cost efficient to install and offer efficiencies in use of electricity. We have also seen huge advances in systems now built with digital in mind allowing for greater flexibility, relevance, and efficiencies through the integration of a wide variety of data sets, and importantly measurement. Technology will help advertisers deliver dynamic and contextually driven campaigns in the real world whilst still doing what OOH has always done best, increasing brand awareness, building trust, and delivering brand fame.” 

Putting all this together, Out of Home advertising is well positioned to capitalise on digital growth opportunities. Phil Hall, Ocean Outdoor’s joint MD in the UK, believes the industry growth figures are expected to continue throughout 2023, despite the ongoing cost-of-living crisis, telling The Media Leader, “this will be driven largely by digital spend — the surge in digital revenues post-pandemic was not a blip and is here to stay.”

Alight Media, the UK’s fastest growing out-of-home media owner, is a perfect example of the rapid pace of development and the exciting opportunities this is creating. In just three years, Alight has established a new offering to advertisers, reaching over half of all adults in 150 towns across the UK, including all 13 BARB TV regions.

CEO, Matthew Dearden, puts this audience into context. “This is twice the audience reach of Sky News, more people than are on Twitter and larger than the population of Australia - so let there be no doubt that digital OOH can now deliver significant audiences.”

All this investment in digital technology is one of the sector’s most powerful and expanding strengths. The bigger and more connected the network that Out of Home advertising’s infrastructure can offer to advertisers, the more powerful the proposition becomes. The result? The more competitive the sector can be for a greater share of the world’s advertising spend and the stronger the potential for the companies involved, including Wildstone and our partners.

"Digital OOH can now deliver significant audiences
Awesome, Jaw-Dropping New Technology-Driven Creative

“The growing desire to mix reality with technology and emerging technologies like AI, AR, VR, and 3D is having a catalysing effect on the Out of Home medium,” says Sarah Parkes, Chief Sales & Marketing Officer at Talon. “People in the UK, US and China are now used to seeing bold creative jumping out of the screen – this will become the norm across the globe as the use of emerging tech continues to grow.”

“AR and VR campaigns with their ability to drive social experiences – both online and offline - is a huge opportunity for Out of Home, while its ability to extend campaigns to social media is proven. Standout creative executions can create mass-reach online moments. A brilliant example of this in action is the BBC’s Dracula special-build with its unique Out of Home campaign, involving poster installations, each adorned with multiple 3-D stakes. This campaign not only made a massive impact on the streets, but a time-lapsed video of the build gained over seven million views on social media.” 

Source: Campaign Live

Parkes concludes, “The renaissance of Out of Home is fuelled by the undeniable power of creativity as it continues to break through the clutter and capture consumer attention. Brands will enter the next dimension of advertising with visually bold and creative storytelling campaigns that deliver compelling, larger than life moments.”

Trust Us, We’ve Nothing To Hide

It has long been recognised that to place an ad Out of Home means you want the public to see who you are and what you are doing. In a world of increasingly personalised advertising via digital devices, this opportunity to be big, bold, and seen by the public puts Out of Home squarely in the mass media category alongside the likes of TV.

That commitment to putting your advertising in the public’s eye has been proven to engender trust from people. For example, research in 2020 by Out of Home software specialist, Vistar Media and MFour found 58% of consumers saw ads on Out of Home formats as more trustworthy and relevant than on any other platform. 

Similarly, Posterscope’s own analysis of almost 60 advertiser campaigns during the period 2016-2021, surveying over 35,000 respondents, showed Out of Home is proven to drive consumers’ trust in brands. Consumers exposed to a brand’s Out of Home advertising are on average 10% more likely to state they trust the brand than all respondents (72% OOH Seen v 62% All Respondents). 

This point around trust is critical, as advertisers work through how to create the most trusted relationship with their customers, all at a time when trust in public institutions generally is low. It follows that the more trusted a media channel is, the more favourable the public are towards the advertising they see, and so, the higher the demand for companies to see their advertising on that channel. This is another key consideration for why the Out of Home advertising sector is set to grow in the coming years.

Richard Bon, Clear Channel’s UK MD, and European commercial lead, has told The Media Leader that the sector’s growth in the year ahead will be driven by the medium’s capability to offer “cost-effective, real-world reach, in an entirely brand safe and environmentally accountable context.”

A Better, More Sustainable Advertising Choice

Like all industries, the advertising industry is wrestling with how to make its operations more sustainable as everybody takes steps to reduce the impact of global warming. Out of Home has a critical role, thanks to its strong links to supporting public transport infrastructure in towns and cities. Spending on Out of Home advertising and infrastructure is an investment also in the urban environment, underlining the responsibility of the sector and its active role in helping to build a better, more sustainable way of life.

As exciting is the potential for sustainability to be built into Out of Home inventory.

Asian media specialist, Moving Walls, highlighted this in a recent article for the World Advertising Research Centre.

For example, organisations are installing solar panels to power equipment. The Moving Walls team cite an Indian agency which has integrated the tech into digital billboards in the city to give free electricity to Indian railways. While advertiser, PG&E, launched a solar-powered billboard, storing the sun’s energy during the day to power the billboard’s lights at night. This initiative has helped prevent more than 125 million tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere. 

The opportunities to be more sustainable in Out of Home advertising are limited only by creativity and ingenuity. Just look at the recent campaign by Toyota for its hydrogen-fuelled zero-emission electric cars, where the billboards were cladded with vinyl coated with titanium dioxide to purify the air. 

Wildstone has been making progress in this area too, recently acquiring Netherland’s most sustainable highway digital advertising mast. Positioned on the A28 in Assen, it consists of two 100m2 LED panels fully powered by the solar panels around it and is operated by Hillenaar Outdoor and GreenLEDwalls.

"Two 100m2 LED panels fully powered by solar energy

Peter Heemskerk, CEO Hillenaar Outdoor, adds: “Our digital landscape is evolving rapidly, meaning we can offer our advertisers flexibility and relevance through a channel that is proudly mass media.

Solar powered advertising mast on A28 in Assen, The Netherlands.

Meanwhile in Spain, Naturgy, Clear Channel and Arena Media have recently partnered in Madrid to offer people mobile chargers, powered by renewable energy, and installed in street furniture, as part of its ‘Naturgy Solar. El Sol a un solo clic’ campaign.

That creativity extends further still, as evidenced by Clear Channel which has recently installed its 100th Living Roof bus shelter in the UK, with the latest in Cardiff. This installation features a carefully selected plant mix, in partnership with the Wildlife Trust, to support native biodiversity and encourage bees and other pollinators. 

As Cardiff Council’s Cabinet Member for Climate Change, Cllr Caro Wild, said: “The Living Roofs on Bee Bus Stops help build nature and biodiversity into the fabric of cities. There are 11 bee bus stops in Cardiff now, with many more to come, and that’s the key - individually one bus stop roof isn’t a huge amount of space for nature, but if you think about the number of bus stops in a city, it soon adds up to something much more significant.”

Clear Channel’s Living Roof in Leicester. Source: clearchannel.co.uk 

Meanwhile, Alight Media has just announced a new partnership with Pinwheel, a pioneering business that aims to repair the planet through investment in rigorously vetted global projects. Alight is the first media owner to work with Pinwheel and it will help fund diverse initiatives such as: seagrass restoration, reforestation, rainwater harvesting and rewilding programmes. Pinwheel has also developed an innovative online platform which enables Alight’s whole team to select which planet saving projects are invested in and track progress.

Alight Media’s CEO, Matthew Dearden, adds: “There are many good causes across the globe, but the rigour Pinwheel places around inspecting the genuine impact of each of their projects is impressive. We are committed to growing a positively sustainable business and I’m proud that our Pinwheel partnership has enabled us to empower our team to choose where we can make a difference to planet repair.”

Picture a world where all Out of Home sites and infrastructure are giving back to their surroundings in one or more sustainable ways, be that through renewable energy back into the grid, or natural habitats for pollinators, or pleasurable environments for people to enjoy shade, flowers, fruit, or vegetable. This role in a more sustainable way of life could ultimately be the Out of Home advertising sector’s biggest and best reason for increased spend and investment.

Important Social Contributions

The Out of Home advertising sector has long made important social contributions too, reinforcing its position as a truly responsible part of the advertising industry. Owners and operators of Out of Home real estate can be confident that their financing will contribute to significant matters of social importance.

This was perhaps best seen in September 2022 when the UK’s Out of Home industry aligned to mark the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II through a collaboration between media owners including Global, Clear Channel, JCDecaux, Ocean Outdoor and Alight Media. These companies suspended their outdoor screens, replacing them with a single tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II – consisting of an official portrait provided by Buckingham Palace.

A tribute to Her Majesty The Queen displayed on a D48 in Manchester, operated by Alight Media.

The track record for social contributions goes on… In 2012, the Out of Home industry began a transformational partnership with the UK charity, Missing People. The digital Out of Home medium was the perfect fit for broadcasting appeals so the public can help to find those who have disappeared. Digital Out of Home media owners across the UK generously provide inventory on a regular basis. The control is completely in the hands of the Charity, enabling the experts in the field to run multiple digital networks and formats that best suit each appeal, and crucially, withdraw appeals when people have been found. It has been a game-changer. In 2015, there were 607 appeals featured on digital Out of Home inventory, leading to 229 people being found safe and well.

Meanwhile, Clear Channel Compass and Jamii have just announced their second collaboration to award from Out of Home advertising space to Black-owner businesses. The competition returns for a second year after the success launch in 2021 which attracted interest from over 200 UK-based Black-owned businesses and helped many Black entrepreneurs increase the awareness of their business with customers.

This unique ability of Out of Home to support businesses wherever they are and whatever their size also puts the medium into a strong position for the future. Paul Inman, Managing Director, 75Media, shares more about what this means when it comes to building lasting relationships with local SMEs: “Direct sales is a core strategy at 75Media: it’s what we built our business on and it’s why we have been able to build a reputation as a media owner that gives local, independent businesses a voice through outdoor advertising. It’s this direct approach that has enabled us to build long-term relationships with business owners and community organisations where trust and loyalty is key. It also means we can support charitable organisations – for example, GenM, Innit For Young People, Four Paws and YDMT – by providing access to space on our panels and screens.”

Putting The OOH Into Your Advertising Choices

To conclude, Out of Home is a media channel at the epicentre of the world’s fast-developing digital economy. All kinds of businesses, from the world’s biggest brands to local companies, from fast-growth ecommerce brands to charities and good causes, can increasingly access the many benefits Out of Home offers. 

Ben Zloof, CEO, UniLED Software describes the opportunity as follows. “Brands now have the flexibility and opportunity to create data-driven and targeted campaigns, by delivering contextually relevant content to consumers dependent on a host of factors such as by location and time of day. Real-time data, such as weather and traffic levels, are also being used by brands to tailor their messaging, ensuring the content they deliver is both contextually relevant and timely, to reach the right person at precisely the right time, with the right message. Brands are increasingly using third-party verification platforms to ensure that their campaign is played when and where it should have. This is essential for building trust and credibility in the sector, whilst also ensuring its continued growth.” 

The world’s advertising market was estimated to be some 808 billion US dollars in 2022 and is forecast to cross the one trillion dollars mark by 2026. Out of Home is well set to take an even greater share as it accelerates its digital transformation, and by doing so, provide a greater return to everyone involved.

Wildstone is proud to offer all its partners a portfolio of Out of Home sites for a media channel that is increasingly digital, trusted, responsible, and sustainable. The portfolio offers a future-proof choice for any company looking to be a part of this incredibly exciting advertising sector.